I. Do You Need to be Tested For an STD?

A sexually transmitted disease is a medical condition that can lead to serious long-term complications if left untreated, so it is important that anybody who is sexually active is tested either annually or intermittently, with their testing schedule dependent upon specific criteria.

How often do you need to be tested for an STD, and what STDs should you be tested for? The chart below offers guidance based on CDC recommendations.

Individual circumstance Annual STD testing Interval STD testing (every three to six months) Special circumstance testing
Sexual activity within the past year X
Adult between the ages of 13 and 65 X
No prior STD testing X
Committed to one partner X
Safe sex practices X
Sexually active gay and bisexual men X
Shares injection drug equipment X
Practice unsafe sex X
Expectant mother X

II. Which STD Test Do You Need?

The importance of STD testing for sexually active individuals cannot be stressed enough. Even if you are uncomfortable with broaching the subject with your health care provider, taking responsibility for your health through regular, appropriate at-home testing is one of the most important steps you can take for your sexual partners and your own health, but knowing which test is right for you is essential. Here is what you need to know about which STD tests are appropriate based on your specific circumstances:

  • Everybody between the age of 13 and 64 should be tested for HIV
  • Women younger than 25 and sexually active should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia annually, and women older than 25 who are engaging in sex with new or multiple partners should also be tested every year.
  • All pregnant women should be tested for HIV, syphilis, and Hepatitis B early in their pregnancies, and women who are at-risk should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea early. Pregnant women with multiple or anonymous partners should be tested for STDs at a greater frequency.
  • Men who are gay or bisexual and sexually active should be tested at least once a year for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, and at greater frequency if they have multiple or anonymous partners.
  • Men who are gay or bisexual and sexually active should be tested for HIV every three to six months.
  • Anyone who has unsafe sex or who shares injectable drugs should be tested for HIV at least once a year.

III. Why Test for STDs at Home?

Though tests administered in-office and through traditional testing sites offer the most accurate, most reliable test results, the reliability of online and at-home tests has improved dramatically over the last several years.

Most are collected through either a urine sample, a blood sample, or a swab from the vagina, rectum or mouth, and when the instructions for these collection methods are followed according to instruction, these self-collected results generally provide results that are equivalent in accuracy to physician or clinician-collected samples.

Perhaps more importantly, studies have shown that as patients are introduced to the availability of self-testing they become more likely to use it: As one study reported, cost, concerns about test accuracy and absence of professional support are all raised as concerns when people are first introduced to the idea of self-testing, but once these issues have been expressed participants have viewed self testing as more convenient, less pressured and more relaxed.

A study conducted by researchers from the Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado analyzed attitudes and preferences regarding the use of self-testing for STDs and HIV and found that programs that utilize rapid self-administered HIV/STI tests improve testing rates.

IV. Accuracy of At-Home Tests

One of the most important reasons that at-home tests have been embraced is the improved reliability and accuracy of at-home STD test results. Though some at-home tests have yielded a higher number of false positives than in-office tests, they still have the advantage of being highly accurate and being available on-demand without the need for making an appointment.

The CDC has supported self-administration of STD tests.“From our perspective in public health, we want people to have access,” says John Papp, a microbiologist at the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

“If the specimen is collected properly, regardless of the setting, the test is probably being performed adequately, says Papp.”

One of the most important things to keep in mind about at-home STD testing is that while the specimen collections are being done by patients, the laboratory analysis is being conducted by laboratories that are testing with high levels of specificity and sensitivity.

Most STD testing is looking for the presence of a component of the organism in question. Tests may search for antibodies produced in response to an infection, or for the virus itself. Modern technology has meant that factors that have previously interfered with testing accuracy are no longer concerns, though there are still issues that can impact results, including a test being administered too soon after exposure. To address this problem, many at-home testing resources provide time frames for testing and retesting.

V. Available At-Home STD Tests and Where to Buy Them

There are numerous STD tests available. Below you will find some of the most popular, along with information on where to purchase them.

Reliability factors: FDA cleared and approved tests
STD tests available:
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Trichomoniasis
  • HIV
  • Syphilis
  • Gardnerella
  • Mycoplasma
  • Ureaplasma
  • Herpes Simplex Virus I and II
  • Hepatitis B and C
Result turnaround time: 2 to 5 days
Cost: $99 to $349
Features and value-added benefits: Discreet delivery of test materials; free shipping both ways; subscriptions available; accredited laboratories; accurate, confidential results from a secure, online account in two-to-five days; accepts Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Account cards; dedicated team of nurses available 24/7 to explain results and provide treatment options.
Where to purchase Direct from website; CVS stores and online; Amazon.com. Not available in New York.
Reliability factors: CDC-listed and FDA-registered
STD tests available:
  • Syphilis
  • Genital herpes
  • Mycoplasma genitalium
  • HIV
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • HPV
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
Result turnaround time: 1 to 5 days
Cost: $59 to $499
Features and value-added benefits: Free physician consult if test results are positive; free 2-day shipping; accepts Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Account cards; CAP- and CLIA-certified laboratories; HIPAA web security protocols; clear instructions.
Where to purchase: Direct from website; Amazon; Walmart. Not available in New York.
Reliability Factors: FDA-approved laboratory tests
STD tests available:
  • HIV
  • Herpes 1 and 2
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis A, B and C
  • Trichomoniasis
  • Herpes Type 1 and 2
  • Mycoplasma
  • Ureaplasma
  • HPV
Result turnaround time: Most test results are available in 1 to 2 business days
Cost: $79 to $349
Features and value-added benefits: Offers both at-home kits and same-day in lab tests at Quest or LabCorp; email notification of test results; private and HIPAA compliant; 100% satisfaction guarantee; FDA-approved lab testing; Free physician consultation as well as prescriptions provided if necessary; accepts Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Account cards;
Where to purchase: Direct from site. Not available in New York.
Reliability Factors: CAP-accredited laboratory
STD tests available:
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • Syphilis
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Trichomoniasis
Result turnaround time: Within 7 days
Cost: With insurance – $75 for the test kit and shipping, plus a $15 medical consultation fee.

Without insurance – flat fee of $150-$220

Features and value-added benefits: Accepts insurance; Accepts Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Account cards; Unlimited messaging with medical team about tests or results; Discreet packaging; Physicians will prescribe medication if appropriate or connect with in-person care;
Where to purchase: Direct from site. Not available in New York.
Reliability Factors: Testing performed by CLIA-certified laboratories.
STD tests available:
  • Chlamydia
  • Gonorrhea
  • HIV
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis C
  • Trichomoniasis
  • HPV
Result turnaround time: Most test results are available in 1 to 2 business days
Cost: $49 to $149
Features and value-added benefits: Discreet packaging; Accepts Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Account cards; Independent physician network for consultations and treatment; Subscription pricing available; HIPAA compliant and secure data; Personalized results sent to your device;
Where to purchase: Direct from site; CVS stores or CVS.com; Walgreens; Amazon.com. Not available in New York.

The availability of STD testing kits has proven to be a complete game changer for sexually active individuals who want to take control of their health. No matter what your reason for needing testing or individual circumstances they make it possible to access fast, affordable, accurate testing results along with treatment and health guidance easily.

This expert contributed information and recommendations for this guide.

John Papp, microbiologist at the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention

VII. Learn More From Our Sources